French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said on Monday that the situation in Mali was "rapidly deteriorating" but ruled out sending French soldiers to the former colony.

"/> French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said on Monday that the situation in Mali was "rapidly deteriorating" but ruled out sending French soldiers to the former colony.

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ALAIN JUPPE

Military intervention ruled out in Mali

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said on Monday that the situation in Mali was "rapidly deteriorating" but ruled out sending French soldiers to the former colony.

Military intervention ruled out in Mali
MEDEF

“The situation is dangerous, that is why I have asked all citizens whose presence is not essential to leave the country,” Juppé told journalists in Dakar.

He said with six French hostages currently being held by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the region “we are clearly a target”.

“We can help with logistics or training but there is no question of putting French soldiers on Malian soil.”

France, which has soldiers in the region stationed in Dakar and Ivory Coast, has twice attempted to intervene to save their hostages in the region with disastrous results.

In July 2010 a French hostage was killed in retaliation for a botched rescue bid, and in January 2011 two Frenchmen were killed in the Malian desert as French special forces and Niger troops attempted to save them.

Juppé expressed concern over the role of armed Islamist groups fighting alongside the Tuareg rebels in an ambiguous relationship which has the various groups controlling northern Mali since fabled Timbuktu fell on Sunday.

“It appears that this extreme Islamist/Jihadist faction is taking the upper hand among the different Tuareg factions,” he said.

Juppé is in Dakar for the inauguration of new Senegalese President Macky Sall.

The ceremony will be followed by a meeting of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States who will rule on whether to hit Mali with heavy sanctions as a 72-hour deadline for the junta to restore democracy ran out.

“There is reason to believe the political side can be resolved. Then there is the military question because it seems the Tuareg offensive is moving south,” said Juppé.

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TERRORISM

‘Terrorists’ attack French soldiers in troubled Mali

French soldiers operating in troubled northern Mali were targeted by "terrorists" in an ambush on Sunday, the third attack in the country in just days.

'Terrorists' attack French soldiers in troubled Mali
Smoke and flames ascend from an army armoured vehicle in Gao, northwestern Mali, following an explosion on Sunday. Photo: STRINGER / AFP
The ambush underscores the fragile security situation in the West African nation as it prepares to go to the polls on July 29th.
 
A spokesman for the French military said there were no deaths among the French troops but it was not known if there were other casualties in the attack, which took place in the restive Gao region.
 
“French soldiers of the Barkhane military operation were ambushed by terrorists” near the town of Bourem, a Western military source told AFP, referring to the French mission in the country. 
 
A Malian military source confirmed the incident, which came two days after a deadly attack on the Mali headquarters of a five-nation regional force known as G5 Sahel.
 
Fatouma Wangara, a resident of Gao, said the French convoy was clearly targeted by a suicide car bomb.
 
“An armoured vehicle blocked the way and the car blew up,” she said.
 
Another resident told AFP that the area around the ambush had been sealed off by French soldiers.
 
The attack came as over 40 African heads of state are meeting for an African Union summit in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott with security high on the agenda.
 
'Hit the heart' of regional security
 
On Friday, a suicide attack on the headquarters of the regional Sahel force known as G5 killed two soldiers and a civilian in the Malian town of Savare. The Al-Qaeda-linked Support Group for Islam and Muslims, the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, claimed Friday's bombing in a telephone call to the Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar. And on Saturday, four Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle drove over a landmine in the central Mopti region.
 
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose country is part of the G5 and is hosting the two-day AU summit, warned earlier that security failings were hampering the work of the Sahel force. He said Friday's attack “hit the heart” of the region's security and lashed out at a lack of international help.
 
The G5 aims to have a total of 5,000 troops from five nations — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — but has faced funding problems. It operates alongside France's 4,000 troops in the troubled “tri-border” area where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, and alongside the UN's 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali.
 
Mali's unrest stems from a 2012 ethnic Tuareg separatist uprising, which was exploited by jihadists in order to take over key cities in the north. The extremists were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.  But large stretches of the country remain out of the control of the foreign and Malian forces, which are frequent targets of attacks, despite a peace accord signed with Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating the jihadists.
 
The violence has also spilled over into both Burkina Faso and Niger.